Washington ready to run with Arizona
Washington coach Jimmy Lake sat down at his Monday press conference, pretending to forget he was still wearing a white hat with four words on the front in capital letters: RUN THE DAMN BALL.
“Oh, am I still wearing this?” he said into the camera.
Lake went on to make multiple references to his Huskies being far from perfect in last weekend’s season-opening win 27-21 victory over visiting Oregon State, but few flaws were evident in the run game. Lake will be hoping for another strong effort on the ground when Washington (1-0, 1-0 Pac-12) hosts Arizona (0-1, 0-1) on Saturday night in Seattle.
“We’re going to do whatever we feel we need to do to make sure we win the football game,” said Lake, whose team ran for 267 yards against the Beavers in his head coaching debut.
“If that means we’ve got to run it, we’re going to run it. If it means we’ve got to be balanced, we’re going to be balanced. If we’ve got to throw it, we’re going to throw it. We’re going to do what the defense presents (to us), to where we think there’s going to be a weakness.”
Arizona nearly pulled off an upset against Southern California on Saturday but fell 34-30 when the Trojans scored a touchdown with 25 seconds left. Despite the loss, coach Kevin Sumlin said he came away encouraged by several aspects, including his run defense, aided by the addition of grad transfer linemen Roy Lopez (New Mexico State) and Aaron Blackwell (New Mexico).
The Wildcats will be trying to slow a rushing attack that includes Sean McGrew (nine carries, 91 yards), Kamari Pleasant (12-61) and Richard Newton (15-41).
“It’s going to be a challenge this week because this is one of the top run offenses in our league,” Sumlin said. “They get under center like 80 percent of the time. Some old-school football. They have three running backs who present some issues.”
Whether the Huskies’ quarterback presents some issues is still up in the air.
Redshirt freshman Dylan Morris, who won a four-way competition in camp, was 14 of 24 for 141 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. His receivers also dropped some passes on a rainy night.
“The quarterback has to be able to limit mistakes and also make plays and command the huddle and be a leader,” Lake said. “And Dylan did all of those things.”
Arizona quarterback Grant Gunnell was sharp against USC after an interception on the opening possession. Already a team captain as a sophomore, Gunnell completed 24 of 36 passes for 286 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception.
His unexpected scrambling in the first half forced the Trojans to dedicate a linebacker to spy on him when he dropped back in the second half.
Sumlin said he expects two rotational receivers who did not play in the opener — Brian Casteel and Drew Dixon — to be available this week. Casteel caught a team-high 45 passes last season.
The Wildcats’ running game should also be a strength, led by Gary Brightwell. Combining a nice blend of power and speed, he rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries in the opener.
This will be Arizona’s first road game after its scheduled opener against Utah was canceled by the Utes due to COVID-19 issues. The Wildcats will be trying to end an eight-game losing streak that includes a 51-27 home loss to Washington on Oct. 12, 2019.
The Huskies have won three in a row in the series and have triumphed in the previous four matchups in Seattle.
–Field Level Media